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Declan, The Actor’s Centre Online – Review

Online @ Actor’s Centre webiste for £3

Online @ Actor's Centre webiste for £3 The stage is basically bare, save for a pair of shoes, a radio and a couple of bin bags stage right, a duvet and microwave stage left. Our monologist, dressed in pyjamas, stares at us wildly and madly from downstage, generally rooted to a taped cross on the floor. His presence splits the stage cleanly in half. He steps back to turn on the radio and have a wee dance but always returns to his sweet spot for the monologue itself. Gleeful and agitated, he tells us a collection of very strange…

Summary

Rating

Good

A magical mystery tour through the mind of a disturbed boy, this 25 minute play has some very poetic lines and imaginative ideas. It would be exciting to see it developed further.

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The stage is basically bare, save for a pair of shoes, a radio and a couple of bin bags stage right, a duvet and microwave stage left. Our monologist, dressed in pyjamas, stares at us wildly and madly from downstage, generally rooted to a taped cross on the floor. His presence splits the stage cleanly in half. He steps back to turn on the radio and have a wee dance but always returns to his sweet spot for the monologue itself. Gleeful and agitated, he tells us a collection of very strange tales in this brightly lit black room.

The play is described as set in a Wiltshire suburb and our protagonist is called Jimbo, but neither pieces of information surface in the play itself. It really could be located anywhere and the protagonist could have any name at all: it barely matters in this tale of obsession and memory.

Declan is not a piece to evoke pleasure – it’s curious and disturbing: a piece of magic realism in which Jimbo tells us, “My socks have somethin’ they wanna ask you.” When he speaks directly to the audience you do have this distinct feeling you’ve been dragged into the house of some madman who’s held you hostage.  He’s compelled to share his delusional state with someone and you’re it. On occasion Jimbo sweeps forward onto the apron of the stage, speaking to us face to face and then with a crazed look sweeps back to his sweet spot. The play works best with this modus operandi. 

“Edward II asked me if I was going to let him in.  Into my room,” Jim laughs to Dad. He’s not speaking directly to the onlookers anymore but to someone elsewhere, and sadly this doesn’t work as well.  The piece suddenly loses potency. Only when Jimbo refocuses on the audience does the spark return.

Alistair Hall is delicious when depicting his neighbour.  He inhabits the cynical, cigarette smoking Mrs Feeney to utter perfection. She is the one character in the play we do know as tangibly real.

It’s a 25 minute piece, a curiosity shop; a collection of different tales that spin around each other in Jimbo’s imaginings, real and otherwise. From within his mother’s cupboard he invokes her love, affection and acceptance of him. It takes being crowned by Edward II to get the pride he wants from his father. We find out about Jimbo’s perverse play with Vampire boy and a love met in Declan.

The end of the play has Jimbo addressing us, now from upstage, across a duvet lake filled with those he loves. “I heard my reflection turn over in the sky like thunder” he tells us; such a poetic turn of phrase.

This is a commendable debut play for writer/actor Alistair Hall and very worthwhile watching.

Written by: Alistair Hall
Directed by: Alexis Gregory
Produced by: The Actors Centre
Available until: 28 June 2020

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